The use of web-based disinformation by the ‘west’

Patrick Cockburn has an extremely important piece at the Independent today, in which he takes to task the major organs of the ‘western’ media– including, crucially, today’s Al-Jazeera– for the extremely uncritical and often openly inflammatory use they make of unsubstantiated or highly exaggerated “news reports” coming out of, in particular, Syria and Iran.
He writes,

    Governments that exclude foreign journalists at times of crisis such as Iran and (until the last week) Syria, create a vacuum of information easily filled by their enemies. These are far better equipped to provide their own version of events than they used to be before the development of mobile phones, satellite television and the internet. State monopolies of information can no longer be maintained. But simply because the opposition to the Syrian and Iranian governments have taken over the news agenda does not mean that what they say is true.
    Early last year I met some Iranian stringers for Western publications in Tehran whose press credentials had been temporarily suspended by the authorities. I said this must be frustrating them, but they replied that even if they could file stories – saying nothing much was happening – they would not be believed by their editors. These had been convinced by exile groups, using blogs and carefully selected YouTube footage, that Tehran was visibly seething with discontent. If the local reporters said that this was a gross exaggeration, their employers would suspect that had been intimidated or bought off by Iranian security.
    … [T]echnical advances have made it more difficult for governments to hide repression. But these developments have also made the work of the propagandist easier. Of course, people who run newspapers and radio and television stations are not fools. They know the dubious nature of much of the information they are conveying. The political elite in Washington and Europe was divided for and against the US invasion of Iraq, making it easier for individual journalists to dissent. But today there is an overwhelming consensus in the foreign media that the rebels are right and existing governments wrong. For institutions such as the BBC, highly unbalanced coverage becomes acceptable.
    Sadly, al-Jazeera, which has done so much to shatter state control of information in the Middle East since it was set up in 1996, has become the uncritical propaganda arm of the Libyan and Syrian rebels.

Then he comes to the nub of why all this is important

    The Syrian opposition needs to give the impression that its insurrection is closer to success than it really is. The Syrian government has failed to crush the protesters, but they, in turn, are a long way from overthrowing it. The exiled leadership wants Western military intervention in its favour as happened in Libya, although conditions are very different.
    The purpose of manipulating the media coverage is to persuade the West and its Arab allies that conditions in Syria are approaching the point when they can repeat their success in Libya. Hence the fog of disinformation pumped out through the internet.

I completely agree with Patrick’s analysis on this point. As I agree, too, with As’ad Abou Khalil’s broad view of events in Syria that, though the government is highly repressive and often criminally stupid, in the ranks of the opposition there are also many very anti-democratic and violence-loving elements and others who are working hard to trigger a western intervention in the country. (Hence my judgment that if you want to follow what’s happening in and toward Syria, Asad’s Angry Arab blog is one of the very best, and best-informed, sources to do that.)
In my view, the Syrian opposition consists of a number of elements, some of them extremely contradictory with each other. There is a genuine, in-country network of activists who seek real democratic reform and who’re working for it using mass nonviolent organizing. But there are also all kinds of opportunistic networks piggybacking on that movement, most of them based in or directed from outside the country… Among them are the openly violence-using people of the Free Syria Army. And though some people in the exile-based Syrian National Council claim that the role of the FSA is merely to “station armed people around mass demonstrations in order to protect the demonstrations”, that has never been a tactic endorsed by any genuine nonviolent mass movement. Indeed it is tactic that’s almost guaranteed to escalate the situation and cause far more casualties among the unarmed than if only nonviolent moral suasion/reproach is brought to bear on the regime’s forces.
We should not kid ourselves by imagining that there is no opportunistic exploitation of the Syrian situation underway, being undertaken by a whole range of anti-Damascus forces– some sectarian (as in the case of Qatar or Saudi Arabia; also, quite possibly, Turkey), and some pro-Zionist, or anyway easily exploited by Syria’s longterm opponents in the Zionist movement in Israel and in the ‘west’.
So how do those many western ‘liberals’ who seem to be so deeply invested in supporting the Syrian ‘revolutionaries’ fit into this scheme? To me, this is another key part of the puzzle, along with the enlistment by the ‘revolutionaries’ of so much of the western media, as documented by Patrick Cockburn.
Okay, I understand that the Syrian government has a really lousy human rights record. I have worked long enough (38 years) in and on the affairs of the mashreq to understand that better than probably 95% of the people in the human rights movement who currently present themselves as “experts” on Syria. But is getting out there to advocate a “Libya-style” overthrow of the regime (i.e. with the aid of outside forces) really a good way to bring rights abuses to an end?
No it is not! Wars and civil conflicts everywhere and always involve a mass-scale assault on the rights of civilian residents of the war-zones, with the most vulnerable residents being the ones whose rights (including the right to life) get abused the worst.
That is everywhere and always the case. No exceptions. That is why I am always really dismayed and upset when I see rights activists who claim to understand what they are talking about taking actions that escalate the tensions toward outright civil conflict and war… Remember that in the case of most rights activists who live in comfortable, secure western countries: These people have never had direct experience of living in a war zone. They are bombarded (by the military-industrial complex) with arguments that modern warfare can be a “precision”, “surgical” business… and most recently, in Libya, we saw the emergence of the keffiyah-ed warrior racing through the sand as a figure of popular heroism and adulation. (Lawrence of Arabia, anyone?).
I have lived in a war zone. I lived in Lebanon from 1974 through 1981. In six of those years the country was plagued by civil war. I lived within Lebanese society, being married to a Lebanese citizen. I was not a “visiting fireman”, as many western journos were– parachuting in to stay a few days or weeks in a relatively comfortable hotel from time to time. Everyone involved in fighting the Lebanese civil war, from all the multiple “sides” that were engaged in it, was convinced of the justice of his (or sometimes her) cause. Each one was fighting what he knew to be a “just” war… But the war and its associated atrocities ground on and on and on.
Another thing the western rights activists too often forget: Mass-scale atrocities– as opposed to a rampage by a lone, psychotic gunman– are nearly always, or always, committed only in the context of an ongoing civil conflict or war. Conflicts provide the heightened degree of threat and the dehumanization of the opponent that are essential ingredients in the organized commission of atrocities. They also, in the past, provided plenty of the “fog of war” in which those acts can be shrouded.
Thus, if you want to avoid the commission of atrocities: avoid war! Do everything you can to explore and enlarge the space for de-escalation and the negotiated resolution of grievances!
It is true that modern communications technology makes the shrouding of atrocities much harder (though not impossible) to achieve. That is, obviously, a very good thing! But this same technology also enables the fighting parties of all sides to do much more than they could previously, to frame and disseminate their own “stories” of what’s happening… Rights activists in other countries need to be very aware that this is not only a possibility– it is actually happening. And in the case of Syria, in particular, these reports are being used to whip up western (and worldwide) support for a ‘western’-led military campaign aimed at bringing forced regime change to Syria.
Colonialists have, throughout history, always tried to cloak their campaigns of military intervention, domination, and control in the lingo of “rights”, “progress”, and liberalism. Even the Belgians and their supporters, when they entered Congo in the late 1800s to initiate an era of control that was marked throughout by mass killings, mass enslavement, and outright genocide that within 23 years took the lives of some ten million persons indigenous to the area… did so in the name of a campaign sold tothe European publics as being one aimed at “liberating” the people of Congo from other (in truth, much less maleficent) Arab slave-traders.
We liberals need to be very careful indeed that we do not have our admirable sentiments of human solidarity abused by today’s architects of ‘western’ colonial invasion, control, and domination.
The situation that Syria’s people are living through today is extremely difficult. There are no easy answers. Both the regime and the opposition have demonstrated their resilience, and neither looks as though it is about to “win” the current contest any time soon. Given the degree of tension that now exists in Syrian society (due to the actions of the regime, of some portions of the opposition, and of several outside actors), it is hard to see how to simply ramp those tensions down and open up the space for the inter-Syrian dialogue and reform process that the people of Syria so desperately need…
But what kind of future do those of us who are westerners or other kinds of non-Syrians want to see for our friends in Syria? A future like that of today’s Libya– or even, heaven forfend, another “result” of western military action: today’s Iraq? Or would we want them to follow a negotiated-transition path like that taken by the people of South Africa, 1990-94… or the negotiated-transition path that the people of Myanmar/Burma now seem to be taking? Few of those western liberals and rights activists who are baying for “no-fly zones” or other forms of foreign military intervention seem to have ever thought about this question, so convinced are they of their own righteousness and the infallibility of their own judgments, however scantily informed these judgments may be in an era of instant You-Tube uploads of videos of, as Patrick Cockburn noted, often extremely sketchy provenance or representativity.

2012: A good year to boycott Sabra (& Shatila) Hummus

I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about the upcoming 30th anniversary of the September 1982 massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. As some of you may know, my company, Just World Books, will soon be publishing a reissued version of former WaPo journo Jon Randal’s classic 1983 study of the Israeli-backed Maronite-extremist militias that, with the full backing and encouragement of Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon, committed those massacres. More details on that, soon…
(Jon is also working on another book, which will be a study of the massacres themselves. In the meantime, he has written a fab new preface to the 1983 book, explaining to a new generation of peace-and-justice activists the significance of all those events… )
These days, “Sabra” is also the trade-name of one of the two brands of Israeli-related hummus that BDS activists are boycotting. In the case of Sabra hummus, the boycott is based primarily on the fact that the Strauss Group, an Israeli-owned company that owns half of the brand, has had a long history of giving material support to the Golani Brigade, an Israeli military formation associated with numerous grave rights abuses.
I’m thinking that maybe this year in particular, the BDS folks might start calling the hummus brand “Sabra and Shatila hummus”, to make even clearer the connection between the hummus brand and the excesses/atrocities committed by, or under the close supervision of, the Israeli military….
I’ve also been thinking about the meanings, connotations, and expropriations of the term “Sabra” in general. In Arabic, the most common understanding of the triliteral root S-b-r relates to being patient and long-suffering. The root is also used in the common name that many Arabs, including Palestinians, give to the prickly pear/ “Indian fig”, and its fruit. It has also been thus used in modern Hebrew. (I don’t know about ancient Hebrew.)
And then, in modern-day Israel, the term “Sabra” was introduced to refer to those Jewish Israelis who had actually been born in the country– as opposed to that proportion of them, originally very large, who arrived from elsewhere as colonial settlers inside the land. Indeed, the use of the term “Sabra” in that context merely underlined the fact that for so many Jewish Israelis, being born in the country was not the norm.
For Palestinians, meanwhile, the hardy prickly-pear (Subar) hedges that once ringed or demarcated properties in many traditional villages in historic Palestine over time became, in many cases, the only trace left of where once had stood those villages that in 1947-48 were ethnically cleansed by the advancing Jewish/Israeli armies that pushed the boundaries of the state of Israel far beyond what even the very generous U.N. Partition Plan had allotted to it. You can still drive around many parts of Israel today and see, on a small rise here or in the fold of valley there, a neglected and ragged line of prickly pear hedges; and you’ll know that that was where one of the ethnically cleansed villages stood.
Patient, indeed.
But the word “Sabra” in one form or another has also been used as a family name in many Arab families, as has the family name “Shatila”. In Beirut, the Chatilas/Shatilas have long been one of the big Sunni trading families… So I imagine the names of the two refugee camps established in southwest Beirut in 1948-50 came from the names of the owners of the lands on which the U.N. and the Lebanese government agreed to locate those camps.
The refugees housed in those camps, as in the three dozen other large refugee camps that ringed the area of the State of Israel, then and now, were some of those same Palestinians who’d been ethnically cleansed from those now destroyed but still “Subar”-hedged villages inside the area of Mandate Palestine.
The massacres at Sabra and Shatila were committed, as noted above, by extremist-Maronite militia formations who were acting under the close supervision of, and with much logistical support from, the Israeli military. (This coordination was well represented in the haunting 2008 film from Israeli director Ari Folman, “Waltz with Bashir.”) The key architect of the whole episode, as of the extremely lethal, all-out military assault on Lebanon that preceded it, from June through early August of 1982, was Ariel Sharon. Israel’s own investigation into the massacres, conducted by former Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Kahan, found that Sharon bore personal responsibility for the massacres, and recommended that he not be permitted to hold high office again.
Well, we know how that went, don’t we…
So now, here we are, 30 years after the Israeli assault on Lebanon, 30 years after the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, and the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere are still no closer to having their rights restored. Their communities were expelled from their ancestral homes and lands through the use of violence and force, and were subsequently prevented from returning to those lands by the same force. They have been subject to repeated assaults by the arrogant Israeli military (with the Golani Brigade as one of the most violent and aggressive units in it.) And they’ve have been forced to continue living as stateless refugees for 64 years now, though numerous United Nations resolutions assure them of the right to “return or compensation” (in UNGA resolution 194, and reaffirmed in numerous U.N. resolutions since then), or, more simply, as per the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the “right to … return to his [or her] country.”
So maybe if we start calling “Sabra” hummus “Sabra and Shatila” hummus, it might remind American shoppers of some of this history?
(What I would not want to do, however, is stigmatize the use of the term “Shatila” in a brand name. The Dearborn, Michigan-based Shatila Food Products bakery produces the very best baklava there is in the whole of North America… )

For September 11, ten years on

… I want to link, first, to these reflections on 9/11, that I published in Friends Journal in 2007, and to this column, that I wrote for the Christian Science Monitor on 9/11 itself, and which ran in the paper two days later.
Tomorrow, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I’ll be spending a lot of time with my fellow Quakers here in Charlottesville. It feels like the right thing to do. At the Quaker meeting for worship (worship service) that we held very soon after the original 9/11, I said that then was the time that “the rubber really hit the road” for the adherence nearly all Quakers profess to the testimony of nonviolence and to the avoidance not just of all wars but also of the causes of war.
I believe that today, more Americans understand the futility and damaging nature of wars– all wars– than did ten years ago. But still, far too many of our countrymen and -women remain susceptible to arguments like those made in favor of the military “action” or military “intervention” in Libya earlier this year. (The advocates of such “interventions” are nowadays careful not to come straight out and call them “wars”.)
I mourn for each of the lives cut short on 9/11. But I mourn equally for each one of the lives cut short as a result of all the American and American-led wars since then. I bear a heavy weight of concern for the men still incarcerated under inhuman conditions and with no access to due process and no hope of any timely and fair trial– in Guantanamo and other elements of the U.S. ‘black’ prison system worldwide. I mourn for the moral blindness and real spiritual wounds suffered by all those who act with, or condone, violence. And I am staggered to think of the “opportunity costs” the whole world has incurred as a result of all the United States’ military spending since, and largely as a result of, what happened on 9/11: All the wonderful, life-supporting projects that that money could and should have been used for instead, which would have made the world a far safer place for everyone– including Americans.
Since 9/11, my own three children have grown into mature, capable, and wonderful adults. Two of them have married and now have children of their own. We all have a new generation to raise. The need to build a better world for these little ones– for all the little ones around the world!– has never felt more urgent. Our generation has a lot to apologize for. But luckily, many of us are still around, with a good few years of energetic and loving activism left in us, to try to make some good amends and get the global situation turned back onto a better track…
Here’s what I’m going to be doing next weekend: Friday night, speaking at the Annual Conference of the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation in Washington DC; and Sunday noon, speaking at the second conference this year that marks the 50th anniversary of Eisenhower’s 1961 warning about the dangers of the emergence of a “Military Industrial Complex.” This one’s in Charlottesville.
These both feel like great ways to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the tragedies of 9/11. Come to one or both, if you can.

Nurturing that better future

All my wonderful longtime readers here at JWN may wonder why I’ve been so silent recently. Two reasons, mainly. I’ve been deep immersed in the most wonderful forms of family life; and I’ve also been racing against the clock on the ‘War Diary: Lebanon 2006‘ project.
In the past three months, we’ve been enriched by the arrival of two new grandchildren! The second of these, little Salma, arrived just under three weeks ago. I’ve been staying with her and her parents in California. My other amazing grandchildren, now aged 2.5 years and 3 months, are also staying nearby, with (of course) their parents.
It is one of the most beautiful things in the world to be with these little ones– and also to see my own ‘little’ ones now all grown up and being such fabulous parents; and to see all of them just enjoying being together. I’ve had wonderful long periods of holding and rocking the babies, chatting with the new parents, watching the two-year-old as she explores the fabulous local tots-only playground, playing Legos with her, listening to all her great little made-up songs… helping the new parents out where I can.
I remember when I was a new parent, that finding a fit between my work at parenting– and yes, as feminist philosophers have pointed out, for all the joy involved, parenting is certainly the most important form of work that there is– and my professional work was really a big challenge…. And now, I’m trying to find the right balance between being the grandparent I want to be and my work in the professional/public sphere. This time around, though, I think the balance is easier for me to find, since I really do think that what I do in the professional/public sphere is aimed centrally at trying to build that better world in which my grandchildren– and yours, and everyone’s!– can all have an equal chance to grow and flourish, in a world that values each human life equally and turns its back on violence, exploitation, discrimination, and war.
And so, in the hours (or minutes) I can scrounge from being with my family during this week, I’ve been trying to work as effectively as I can on the War Diary project. This little book– which we’re now planning to publish as both an e-book and a paperback— is a document that is truly unique in English. It’s a record of what it was like to live in Beirut (and South Lebanon) in July-August 2006 under the bombing and anti-civilian devastation undertaken by the Israeli military as it gave the first try-out to what became known as the ‘Dahieh Doctrine.’
Yes, that’s Dahieh, as in that whole broad area of Southern Beirut where towering, ten-story buildings that housed homes, offices, shops, and schools, were obliterated from the map and reduced to smoking rubble-fields.
The Dahieh Doctrine was what Israel was also trying to pursue 30 months later, against the people of Gaza. On both occasions, its application was a notable failure. The pronounced goal of the Dahieh Doctrine, after all, was to inflict such harsh punishment on the targeted population that they would “turn against” and repudiate the resistance movements that lived among them…. And on both occasions, the respective resistance movements not only survived with their leadership and basic cadre intact– but they ended up gaining increased political stature amongst their national constituencies, and throughout the whole Arab world, by having done so.
But who know– maybe, as it did in December 2008, the Israeli government will one day once again decide that “with just a few further tweaks” the Dahieh Doctrine can be “perfected” and finally made to work?
That’s why, having the actual record of what it was like to be in Beirut during the very first application of the Dahieh Doctrine is so important. Rami Zurayk’s War Diary: Lebanon 2006 is a key testament to human resilience and to the spirit of an optimistic human community. It shows why the resilience the Lebanese population showed during summer 2006– along with, crucially, the alliance between Islamist and secularist resisters that was also evidenced then– have been cited by several leaders in the Arab Spring as giving them hope that the spirit of a proudly proclaimed and defended common humanity could indeed prevail over the “values” of military organizations, however brutal.
So this is why I think getting War Diary published as soon and as well as possible is important. It also completely fits with the goal of building the kind of world that I want my grandchildren (and everyone else’s) to grow up in. All my grandchildren have a rich mix of ethnic heritages. The littlest one, Salma, is Arab, Jewish, British– and also, very strongly “American”. How could anyone possibly say to her or to anyone that her “Jewish” aspect is more important or more valuable than her “Arab” aspect– or the other way around? How can anyone say that the lives of people who are Jewish, wherever they are, are somehow more “valuable” than the lives of people who are Lebanese, Palestinian, Egyptian, Iranian, or American?
Seeing these little children in my own family just makes me want to work all the harder for a world that gives equal value and equal care to each human person– a goal that necessarily involves turning our backs on violence, domination, and war.

Bayard Rustin understood Palestinians

I just came across this great, short piece of writing, quoting the African-American, gay, Quaker activist Bayard Rustin:

    In 1968, American civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin wrote, “We would be mistaken to think that the only desires of young Negroes today are to have a job, to have a decent house, to be well educated, to have medical care. All these things are very important, but deeper and more profound is the feeling of young Negroes today—through all classes, from the lumpenproletariat to the working poor, the working classes, the middle classes, and the intelligentsia—that the time has come when they should have power, a voice in the solution of problems which affect them.”

This observation is absolutely central if anyone wants to understand the situation and aspiration of Palestinians today. This point has been eloquently made by Laila El-Haddad– both in her recent book Gaza Mom, which my company had the honor of publishing, and in her appearance on Tuesday at this great Capitol Hill briefing (which, as it happens, I had the honor of chairing.)
As Laila says, “What the Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from is not restrictions on their food, it is restrictions on their freedom!”
Interestingly, I got that Bayard Rustin quote not directly from my own reading but from this late-January blog post by the great Egyptian blogger Baheyya. Bayard Rustin to me, via Tahrir Square. Neat, huh?

Pete Seeger joins BDS campaign!

Great news from Max Blumenthal about this. I like his post particularly, because of the sound-track on the video there!
Seeger had been inveigled by something called the “Arava Institute” into taking part on an event that claimed to be only about the environment… But later, he found out about Arava’s close ties to the Jewish National Fund, which has a long (and continuing) record of funding and otherwise supporting ethnic cleansing in historic Palestine.

Virginians standing up to Cantor!

A group of home-state Virginians and I are planning to build a network of in-state activists– including our friends in the 7th congressional district– to stand up for our country’s interests against the near-treasonous positions on Israel being articulated by Rep. Eric Cantor.
Last Wednesday evening, on the eve of Israeli PM Netanyahu’s lengthy and difficult meeting with secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu had an hour-long tete-a-tete in New York with Cantor, who will be the “House Majority leader”, i.e. the second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, as of next January. During the meeting, according to a statement issued afterwards by his office, Cantor,

    stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington… He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.

Even Ron Kampeas, the veteran columnist over at the Jewish Telegraph Agency, was astonished, writing,

    I can’t remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president. Certainly, in statements on one specific issue or another — building in Jerusalem, or somesuch — lawmakers have taken the sides of other nations. But to have-a-face to face and say, in general, we will take your side against the White House — that sounds to me extraordinary.

You can find much more on the Cantor Rant, from Glenn Greenwald, here.
My friends and I haven’t decided yet what our new network will be called. Maybe something like “Virginians for Our Country’s Sanity” (VOCS)? If you’re a Virginian and you’d like to help us show Rep. Cantor that he doesn’t speak for us (or, indeed, for American military leaders responsible for the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens serving in very dangerous locations overseas), then drop us a line. Give us your name, email (obviously), street address, congressional district, and we’ll see what we can do to build the network.

Foreign investment in Israel plunged in 2009

Haaretz today:

    Foreign direct investment in Israel fell by 64% in 2009 to only $3.9 billion, down from $10.9 billion in 2008. Israel fell from 54th place in 2008 to 80th in 2009 in terms of FDI.

I found this great tool on Google that lets you compare FDI data for various countries.
Of course, since Israel plummeted from 54th place globally in ’08 to 80th in ’09, 26 other countries did relatively better than it did last year. One was China, which I put onto the Google chart there.
Equally obviously, it was not only the global economic turndown that brought down Israel’s total FDI. If it had been that, all other countries would have been roughly equally affected, and Israel might have retained its ranking. There must have been some other factor.
I’m pretty certain that worldwide horror over the Israeli assault on Gaza must have played a role– buttressed by the emergence of the worldwide BDS movement. Obviously, we should all keep the pressure up until Israelis are prepared to sign onto a fair, compassionate, and sustainable peace with its Palestinian neighbors and indeed, all ts neighbors.

A great resource on the Hamas women

Kudos to Conflicts Forum, which a few months ago published (PDF) a very informative study by the Hebron-area journalist and researcher Khaled Amayreh on the role of women in Hamas.
Amayreh’s study is in two parts. The first consists of interviews with three of Hamas’s female MPs: Sameera al-Halayka from the Hebron area, and Jamila Shanti and Huda Naim from Gaza. The second is Amayreh’s own analysis of the significant role women have played in bolstering Hamas.
In my 2006 article “Sisterhood of Hamas”, I had some good material from some time I spent with Shanti and other Hamas women right after the January 2006 elections. But this 26-page paper from Amayreh is much richer than the material I was able to get during that rushed reporting trip.
There’s a huge amount of really important material in this study. So many westerners still seem to have the completely erroneous idea that all Islamist movements are just like the Afghan Taliban in the very repressive way they treat women. Nothing could be further from the truth! All women in Palestine have access to basic good education– and Hamas and its supporters fully support the right of all females not only to study but also to work in paid jobs and in voluntary societies, and to participate fully in local and national politics. (Hence, the “phenomenon” of female Hamas MPs, like the three whom Amayreh interviews.)
At one point, Amayreh has this exchange with Halayka:

    Q: Have you sought to learn and benefit from Muslim women activists outside occupied Palestine?
    A: On the contrary, it was women activists from outside occupied Palestine that sought to learn from us. In the aftermath of elections, we were contacted by women organizations, Palestinian (mostly those functioning among expatriate Palestinian communities) and non-Palestinian, enquiring about the modalities we used in our activism. It is true that our situation is unique because of the Israeli occupation and cannot in that sense be copied. However, it is clear that women’s groups can learn much from us in terms of empowerment and activism as well as Islamic education.

He has these exchanges with Shanti:

    Q: You have been active in Hamas’ women’s department for many years. How would describe the status of women within Hamas? Do they take you seriously?
    A: Irrespective of western stereotypes, I can say that Hamas – a movement I know very well – is a moderate Islamic movement that adopts a comprehensive approach to society. This is probably the reason why Hamas has been able to receive widespread support from people. Hence, I can say that Hamas’ philosophy stems from Islam which gives women their rights and dignity. So, it is only natural that the status of women within Hamas is very advanced as women are considered a fundamental component of the movement. In fact, I can say for sure that women are more representative in Hamas than they are within any other Palestinian political movement. Take for example colleges and universities in occupied Palestine and you will find that a clear majority of the supporters of the Islamic student blocks are women. Similarly, it is widely believed that a majority of those who voted for Hamas in the 2006 elections were women. It is true though that formal representation of women within Hamas is still smaller in proportion to their proportion in the population. However, we view this as an evolutionary and cumulative process, which means that we will continue to make progress toward a more equitable representation of women within the
    Islamic movement.
    … Q: How did you cope with the mass arrest by Israel of Hamas’ Legislative Council members?
    A: That was a real burden as more than 40 MPs were arrested as an act of political vendetta. But the bigger problem was the harassment of our sister MPs both by the Israeli occupiers and the PA. You know the sisters Mariam Saleh and Muna Mansur were both arrested by the Israelis and Samira Halaika was also harassed. This meant that Hamas in the West Bank became nearly voiceless which placed on us an additional burden here in the Gaza Strip since we had to make up for our colleagues who had been arrested and detained…
    Q: How would you evaluate your experience in politics in the past five years?
    A: We have been able to learn much in terms of working with the media. We have also acquired new skills in dealing with the public in ways that differ from our previous activities in the field of daawa (inviting people to Islam). In our new capacity as MPs, we have had to be constantly available to help people in every conceivable aspect. We also have gained a profound understanding of the judicial and legislative systems. For example, we had to have a thorough grasp of the laws, bylaws, regulations and norms pertaining to parliamentary processes. This has helped us assert ourselves as effective MPs. Nonetheless, the paralysis of parliamentary life following 2007 has not allowed us to reach our potentials.

And he had this exchange with Naim:

    Q: What role have Islamist women played in the resistance?
    A: The resistance is more than just shooting and fighting. Strengthening our society against Israeli infiltration and manipulation is also a form of resistance. In fact, Islamist women and Palestinian women in general, have played an extremely important role in securing and protecting the internal front without which the resistance front would collapse. But there are, of course, many women who played an active role in the resistance, such as Reem al Rayashi and Fatema al Najar who were martyred, and Ahlam Tamimi who was imprisoned for life. Nonetheless, the main role of Islamist women has been to shield and fortify our society against moral decay.

I’m sorry I hadn’t known about this paper earlier. (Khaled, why didn’t you send it to me? You know I’m interested in the topic!)
Anyway, go read the whole thing. As I said, it’s a great resource.
CF has also, more recently, published another study on Islamist women. This one is “A Study on Women in Islam: An Islamic Vision of Women From the Viewpoint of Contemporary Shi’i Scholars in Lebanon”, by Amira Burghul (PDF). It looks mainly at texts written by Imam Mousa al-Sadr, Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah and Imam Sheikh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din.